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Book TV After Words

Kenneth Walsh Education. (2011) Kenneth Walsh ('Family of Freedom Presidents and...')

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Bush 10, Washington 8, Johnson 7, Mary Todd Lincoln 7, Texas 6, United States 6, William Slade 5, Clinton 4, Harry Truman 4, Elizabeth 4, Obama 4, Eisenhower 4, Lincoln 3, China 3, Lyndon Johnson 3, George W. Bush 3, Nixon 3, Sasha 3, Princeton 2, Cambridge 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV After Words    Kenneth Walsh  Education.  (2011) Kenneth  
   Walsh ('Family of Freedom Presidents and...')  

    July 5, 2011
    1:00 - 2:00am EDT  

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not do anything about it because they would alienate the states. this has been a common theme for history. so we have sort of a sad failure to live up to ideals to our presence in the beginning because all the notions that the founders in the declaration of independence and the quality and rights of people didn't apply to african-americans and this is a first president said. our very first president, george washington, people might be surprised to learn how racist he was in many ways by his wife, martha. they felt that slavery was up there with what they had to have for their plantation.
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>> she did escape. valued her freedom much more than the relationship with the president and the first lady. he sent people to catch her. they never could find her. she ended up living in new hampshire. but he went to those great lengths and a lot of our early presidents didn't understand the desire for freedom was so strong much the among around them, they thought it was an act of disloyalty for a slave to
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escape. we can't understand that. but that's the way the early president's felt. >> host: the president's who had been signers of the lek alationlationlationlation -- def independence, more than any freedom of their homeland what caused african-american to escape enslavement. >> guest: yeah, it's the fundamental contradiction. a lot of people say these were people of their times. the presidents were creatures of the times. i think do expect our leaders to transcend the times. our early presidents did not. >> >> host: abigail told him not to forget the women. he talked in their correspondence which you go into a little bit. lots of folks have written about in their correspondence about having the union or vision enslavement. >> guest: right. >> host: that was a choice to
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make that we'd have to pay for as a nation much later. >> guest: yes, they understand that. adam was from that massachusetts, not a slave owner. he opposed slavery. his wife if anything was more of an abolitionist that he was. you could see that in the correspondence as you mention. she felt that slavery was not only wrong for the country, but it was a sin. and she -- but her husband never would do anything about it politically. again, this fear of the southern states. the fear of that he could have a secession on his hands. that's what happens later. that was always the fear for many years in the united states, the south, if it was forced to accept the end of slavery and later desegregation and equality would cause problems for a president's agenda, if that agenda was not supported in the south to begin with. that the race issue would complicate things for president
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so much so many times they just let it go, unfortunately. >> host: so this day, don't they let it go. even contemporary, carter and clinton have come from the south. while both of them were somewhat progressive, i was intrigued by the comment that thurgood marshall, his heart was in the right place. that's about all i can say. >> guest: yeah. right. it's interesting the southern friends recently, president carter, president clinton, we can classify president bush the father was a congressman from texas. although his roots were in maine and up north. president bush the son had lived in texas for a many longer time. but a lot of the presidents from the south had experienced directly with african-americans around them. which a lot of the northern presidents did not. lyndon johnson, also from texas
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had experience with african-americans around him. the presidents from the north, many times, some of them are considered iconic presidents in some ways like president kennedy had no experience with african-americans his whole life. he was not interested in the civil rights issue. it's only after he became president and rather later in his presidency in 1963 where he started to take notice of this tremendous bubbling up of the civil rights movement. you know, by the protesters in the streets. and being a world war ii veteran, he was very much admiral -- admiring physical courage. he saw the physical courage of the demonstrators. this impressed him a great deal. by the time his president -- he was assassinated, of course, he was much different kind of president dealing with civil rights than he was initially. that was cut short. >> host: you know, one the things that so intrigued me about your book was the biography. because you have -- i mean you
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had to have -- many of them in the white house and lots of african-americans who worked for presidents. >> guest: right. >> host: who then wrote books. talk about the books and the findings. expwhrg you are right. that was fascinating. one thinged i wanted to mention also was to give credit where credit is due to the african-american newspapers. who had wonderful coverages of presidents and much different from what we could -- the mainstream or the white press. there was wonderful stories there. investigative reporting, for instance, on franklin roosevelt's home and how he was treating the black and whites there differently with salaries and the jobs that they were doing. a lot of great work was done by the african-american press that i wanted to give credit to. as far as the people in the white house, there are diaries and interviews and books that they've written as you had mentioned. very early on, there was a slave
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named paul jennings who wrote about his experiences in the white house and published a book about it that was very interesting. there was a couple of people who worked for president lincoln who actually gave interviews in the limited way at the time. but a very fascinating. and i think the more we know about this them, the more insights we get into president lincoln. there was a seamstress that was close to the lincolns. and there was a valet named william slade who was a particular interest to historians. we don't really know a great deal about him. but lincoln trusted william slade so much as a man who was close to public opinion. more than lincoln's advisors. we could actually run his speeches by william slade. he ran the gettysburg address before him. they spent the night going over the speech. and lincoln basically gave the
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speech to william and got feedback. it's very interesting this was an african-american, former slave who the president valued so much because he felt -- the president felt he understood the country so well. if it made sense and resonated with william slade, he felt it would resonate with everyday americans. it was a very fascinating relationship. that's the kind of thing you could pick up. >> host: let's talk about elizabeth. she was a fascinating woman who seamstress as you mentioned, who you emancipated herself. she had been an enslaved woman. she felt so strongly about the rules of the game that she actually insisted on paying for herself as opposed to running away. her -- she supported the white family that owned her. they had followed upon hard times. in her own words, her owner was dissipated. her words and her diary said she was reporting 17 people in st.
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louis with her skills. >> guest: right. >> host: some of her patrons and she herself put together the $1200 that she needed to self-emancipate and purchase her son. she became mary todd lincoln's seamstress. they fell out when she wrote her book. they had a close relationship. they fell out when she wrote her book. >> guest: that sometimes happens when people write the insider books. she became so close to the lincolns, of course, she had lost a son in the civil war. the lincoln's lost their son, willie, to a disease while they were in the white house. since they both lost seasons, elizabeth and mary todd lincoln had their bond. and it was very close. and lincoln -- mary todd lincoln would take elizabeth with her on trips around the country. of course, being a seamstress, it helped because mary todd lincoln was a real clothes
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horse. she loved to buy clothes wherefore she went. sometimes exceeding the budget that she was supposed to hold to. but another interesting thing that i found that mary todd lincoln was such trusted mary elizabeth that she could confide in her her assessment of her husband's cabinet, generals, very much down on general grant, felt that mary todd thought he was what she called a butcher because of the battles that he got his soldiers involved in. and then as time went on, as you say, elizabeth did write about her experiences. this did -- was seen as a breach by mary todd lincoln of confidence. it wasn't anything like we would think of today as tell all, but it did give insight into the white house. mary todd thought that was something elizabeth shouldn't have done. >> guest: elizabeth died in poverty. the book that she wrote was probably one the few ways she
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had generating income after she became older and couldn't work as a seamstress. expwhrg that's right. >> host: again, your thoughts. >> guest: i think that's true. lots of time when a president or first lady thinks there's a breach of protocol, the trust. they don't understand the idea of someone needing to public the book for support. similar thing with jackie kennedy. that was a woman that worked in the white house nameed lilian roger parks who wrote two books. she had been working at a white house. again a seamstress and maid. her mom worked there before her. she had wonderful stories spanning a number of presidents. she did write two books and jackie kennedy had the staff promises they would not write books about the kennedy presidency. the person who distributed the promises did not sign it herself. she ended up writing a book.
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but it just shows this dynamic that once a staffer writes the book, the first ladies and presidents tend to be wondering if they are talking out of school and what could be said about them. >> host: did race complicate their reaction. had they reactions had the staffers been caw caution? -- caucasian? >> guest: good question. it must have complicated things. the lincolns had their own problem with racial institute. they weren't in the personal lives advocates of abolition until late in the game until the civil war. lincoln never was an advocate of equality. he was always thought there should be some system created so that african-americans and freed slaves could be find another country to go to. >> yes. >> guest: he wasn't talking about them living in the united states.
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but the way and there was a famous case where he met with a delegation of african-american leaders who actually organized a trip from three or 400 african-american to an island off of haiti. to set up a country there. >> host: yes. >> guest: it didn't work. 1/3 of them died. they came back. lincoln embraced the idea and encouraged the folks to do it. he was not -- he wasn't in favor of social equality. although was in favor, of course, of abolition. >> host: was lincoln the first president to invite african-american to the white house as delegate as people he sat across the table with? i know he met with harriet tubman and douglas. have others? entering no. lincoln had sojourner truth. he was trying to show that
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african-americans if given the right opportunities could achieve and succeed and be important advisors to him. particularly on the social issues that he was dealing with. so some extent on the military with frederick douglass. african-american soldiers. he was a ground breaker in that way and public about it. the other interesting is as far as how the african-americans around him affected his policies and his at -- attitudes. people might not realize that lincoln for a quarter of the presidency lived at soldiers home. it was a home for soldiers in civil war about three miles from the white house. he commuted to the white house from there. during that trip, he could often stop at contraband camps, camps for freed african-americans who were living in the washington area. and they would make a big effort to impress lincoln. they could dress in their finest
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close. men wearing civil war, both the gray and the blue they got for battle fields. they'd line up and sing spirituals and entertainment with these spirituals. and he was so moved to tearing often that a lot of people around him thought this sort of deepened his commitment to abolition and to emancipation. just being in the presence of the african-americans had somebody slaves and talking to them. especially what became quasi religious ceremonies. he was sort of semireligious figure among freed slaves in those days. >> host: what strikes me when you go through all of the presidents and you mention them all is oscillation. you've got -- you have a lincoln and an andrew johnson. who was pretty much indifferent. he was to the plight of people of african-american descent.
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>> guest: yeah. the other oscillation is a class-based oscillation. you had people in the white house that served several. they could observe how people behaved towards people. on time, messy, neat, respectful? not respectful? >> guest: right. >> host: let's just talk about johnson for a minute. >> guest: johnson succeeded lincoln. after lincoln died, he game president. he was from tennessee. he was not interested in the issue of the slavery, but wanted to preserve the union. that had that distinction. after lincoln died, a lot of historians feel that johnson actually set the course of our racial progress back for generations because he failed to act and follow through on some of lincoln's initiatives, but also he, of course, agreed to pull union soldiers out of the south. and also sort of gave up on this
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radical republican reinstruction and reports more sympathetic to the south. he really set back the effort a lot. he could have done a lot more. you see that in some of the presidents, figures that could have made a big difference. washington is one of those cases. because he had such a paramount position in the country. if he had tried to take on some of the institutional obstacles to emancipation, he could have done that. the other interesting thing about andrew johnson, robert e. lee, the famous southern general said that she was surprised that johnson didn't push harder for free equality for the freed slaves because he -- lee felt the south would have understood. we lost the war. you know. >> host: they don't understand that yet. >> guest: this is what robert e. lee thought. that showed. there is still the dynamic there. johnson was afraid the southern states would cause him a lot of
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problem with their other programs. of course, he had a lot of problems with impeachment. he was impeached himself. there was the whole other dynamic. the fear of what the south might do has been common since the beginning. >> host: one other thing that surprised me was woodrow wilson. he was intellectual, he was the president of princeton. once could have thought he could have had good sense. his reaction to race was almost unpredictable and very, very harsh. coming after a president who had entertained booker t. washington, here comes the intellectual who is literally rigid. how do you explain that? >> guest: woodrow wilson's roots were in virginia, from the south. he had president of princeton and governor of new jersey. he was never interested in
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equality. when he was elected, there was high hopes that he would do things different lip. he didn't. he was swayed by some of the southern cabinet members and resegregated washington. in the government and so on. and even though again this fundamental contradiction of our deals and his ideals, he was the guy who talked about equality among the nations and about these freedoms of around the world that he was trying to promote after world war i. yet at home, he just didn't see that that was a tremendous hypocrisy and contradiction to what he was trying to do around the world. trying to protect small fashions sort of minority of nations. he just didn't understand these things. and this segregation of washington is really a blog on his record that i think even the people who appreciate what wilson did in other ways have to recognize. >> host: now, he became very ill. in fact, it was rumored that his
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wife was really running the government. entering yes. >> host: those african-americans who worked in the white house were extraordinarily loyal to despite his attitudes. as you researched that period, he was nearly incapacitated. >> guest: he was. some of them privately, including mary -- lilian rogers parks who we talked about earlier that wrote the books about the white house and her mom was there. they felt privately that wilson really should not have been staying on as president. that mrs. wilson was going too much. he really wasn't up to the job. they were hiding his true condition from the country. over the years, very interesting that the household staff, african-american and white were very keen observers. they gave some fascinating pictures of what these presidents were like behind the scenes, which is another thing i was trying to get at in the book. i just wanted to fast forward a little bit to herbert hoover. i think people might be surprised to learn that hoover
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wanted to have some private homes when he was president. he didn't want the staff to see him, and he didn't want to see them. so he would insist when they heard his foot steps and heard him coming, they would hide from him. no matter what they were doing. there were cases where the staff would tell stories about the president's coming. they'd open a closet door and be somebody in there with a tray of classes and linens hiding from the president. that's the way he wanted it. when harry truman took over, his reaction, another insight into the man was why are these people peeping at me from behind the bushes. what's that all about? he said just have them go about their business. then the system started to go back to the way it had been when eisenhower took over. his reaction was typical of eisenhower. he said why doesn't anybody do any work? how come i never see anybody working? the point was they were trying to hide from the president.
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he said i want the people to go about their business. it's an interesting insight into the upstairs. >> host: you get a lot -- how the different presidents managed household staff. >> guest: right. >> host: were accustom to it or not accustom to it. one the interesting anecdotes that you share with harry truman, conflict he had with adam clayton powell. they have told me stories about truman's loyalty to his family when his daughter was at the concert and got a pan from the washington papers. he wrote back a letter saying how angry he was. when adam clayton powell took on beth truman, harry truman cut him off. >> guest: yes, adam powell, of course, was a famous congressman from harlem, powerful figure in congress because of his longevity there. but truman initially was sort of ambivalent about powell.
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there was an innocent where powell's wife felt shunned and snubbed by the white house and it was blamed. so then powell made a public comment that he shouldn't be seen as the first lady, but the last lady. whatever you say. whatever was his own family, he'd over react and couldn't contain himself. then he kept powell at a distance. didn't invite him to social events. but it was the notion, as you say that oscillation and that -- somehow the other presidents were more willing to do that. especially as we get to more recent times. >> host: you know, franklin roosevelt gets a lot of attention from the new deal. when they visited the white house, one the white house
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security guards said auntie. she said which one of my sisters children are you? that was mary mccloud. but roosevelt gets a lot of credit for being very liberal, for being a civil rights advocate, certainly he did sign executives ordered that had to do with civil rights issues. often only when forced. but he wasn't quite -- he didn't live up to his inside pr. >> guest: no, he didn't. eleanor did. she both publicly and privately did push aggressively on civil rights. sometimes to the point where her husband kept saying that's enough. i've heard enough. if i keep pushing in this direction, i'm going to alienate the southern states and they won't accept the rest of the nacelle, -- the new deal, the private agenda. he was trusting the staff very much. roosevelt his legs were
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paralyzed polio at 39. irony because it's a young person's disease. he was always afraid of fire that he would be caught in the room and could not escape fire. when he was in the white house, also concerned about enny attacks, they launched the crawling exercises. the president in order to escape would have to practice getting to a window from the bedroom or president part of the residence. he could get down on the floor and, you know, the president of the united states, and pull himself with his arms to the window and the secret service would put chutes out to slide down and escape. the only person he entrusted with the knowledge and help him with the crawling exercises was valet -- african-american valet named urban mcduffy. he was very well trusted by the roosevelt family. i thought how remarkable that
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was. he didn't want his family, he didn't really entrust some of his other close advisors. but he trusted irwin mcduffy, not only he would help, but not talk about it. which is a very important part of being a worker at the white house. >> host: roosevelt with the attitudes. he paid attend to randolph and issued the executive order on the threat of washington in world war ii. did he bond with any of the people? any that he was close to? displg i don't believe so. the steps he took, he had to be pressured into doing it. the threat of demonstration or something of that kind. so, you know, he was not a paragon of in his policies on racial issues. some steps she took. but eleanor was always pushing
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for more. she wanted -- she did manage to purr -- persuade him to have the armed forces provide recreation facilities for african-american soldiers, but he never, for instance, took on the issue of having african-americans fight in combat units or the integration of the service until the very late in the war with the combat. but never integrated the service at all. it was harry truman that did that. >> host: we can talk history. it's fascinating. you're interviewed president barack obama how many times? >> guest: four times. one exclusively for the book. >> host: the obama presidency is partly enface for the book. obviously, and which is exciting. we're all excited to have the first african-american president in the white house. but you talk not only about the presidency, but also about some of the disappointments that have come after the two years in office, the tea party folk -- >> guest: yes. >> host: now president obama has worked very hard not to be
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seen as a black president. >> guest: right. >> host: share some of your conversation with him around that issue. >> guest: right. i did ask him about this directly. some of his advisors both african-american and others about this. and he's very clear that he doesn't think we're in a what some people call a post racial america. the race issue comes up. he addresses, most of the times he prefers not to. because what he's trying to do as he told me and his advisor said, he's trying to run a race neutral. he wants to be thought of the president, not the black president, or the first black president. he and some of the advisors make an interesting historical case. when president kennedy was campaigning, he was widely perceived the catholicism would be a problem. when he took office, that issues faded. because so many other issues were crowding. the dealing with the soviet
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union, economy and so on. so the catholic issue faded. what obama and his advisors are opening is that as time goes on, the idea of pigeon holing him as the black president is going to fade. now it still comes up. as you said. there's a strain of anti-obama feeling. i would have to say a racial strain in the tea party movement. there's -- the issue comes up regularly in our public discourse. so -- but his concern and it's a political concern, is that as he runs for reelection in 2012, he just can't be seen as the african-american president. because it might cost him the election by alienating white voters and others. but i think -- i asked him specifically whether he thinks an african-american agenda per se. such as racial profiling, dealing with problems with the cities, african-american unemployment, which is about -- higher than 15% with the national average is 9, 9.5%.
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is that appropriate? he said, no, at this point is overall policies is what's best for african-american. he doesn't think he should adopt a specific agenda. he did according the health care would benefit african-american particularly and his proposals on education to allow young people to go to school with federal help. more than they have in the past would help african-americans. but he said that's an agenda for everybody, and not just for african-americans and that's, i think, -- i don't think we'll see any change in that. >> host: that is a source of discontent among other african-americans, myself included while we applaud the presidency, as you say, when such a big unemployment rate gap. if it were anything else that had 18%, don't you think he'd pay attention? >> guest: maybe so. if he's reelected, that might
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change. there might be more of an african-american agenda to develop in a second term. i wouldn't expect it now. i think that -- i mean mean -- e seems to be drawn in some ways to the idea of seeing our economic problems more as class problems than racial problems. i think you could make a case that some of that at least is true. but, you know, if you look at their -- our -- there's just new reports out about this. not only the unemployment rate, but the education. and the familiar issues of crime and so on. there is a -- does appear to be a special need in the african-american community for some programs to deal with this sort of thing. president obama doesn't want to deal with it. when i asked him do you have a racial thought when you make decisions? he said, no. he says i almost never think about the racial aspect of things. there's so many other things i have to think about. there's so many other thing that is are so urgent. and one other quick point about this is that he did point out, i
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think rightly, he was faced with extraordinary crises when he took over. i mean as he and his staff would say initially, you know, one of these crises might be par from the course. he was dealing with a financial meltdown, problems with the auto industry, unemployment rate, he was dealing with one thing after another. >> host: two wars. >> guest: exactly. iraq and afghanistan. the velocity of the events and decisions were so amazing. there really was no breather. and if you look back on it in that context, it was an remarkable time for him to take over. and a lot of people asked me what is it like to interview president obama. what is he like in person? well, he's very methodical, disciplined, the qualities that you see in public, you see in private when you interview him. i've interviewed five presidents now, i've covered five presidents. it's interesting that every other one of the other four
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there would be some chitchat, a little social moment there in the beginning. i walked into the oval office, president obama say i've been thoroughly briefed. fire your questions away. that's it. we went right to the issues. that's the way he is. >> host: no ice breakers. >> guest: how's your son, your daughter? no. some people are a little taken back by that. they think maybe he should be outgoing or friendly. he's not a back slapping kind of leader. a lot of people like the steadiness they see. >> host: you know, he has pledged as you said to be a nonracial, race neutral president. yet he got himself embroiled in a little mess. you write about it with the so-called beer summit when harvard professor skip gates arrested by a cambridge policeman for invading his own home. but in any case, the beer summit
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seemed to be a note in the race neutrality. what are your thoughts about? >> guest: as you say, the innocent in professor gates' home. when president obama addressed it, it was percolated as an issue, but it wasn't really a huge national issue. but he was asked -- the last question of the news conference, they always tell presidents in the press staff, be careful of the last question. the last question was about the innocent. and president obama's reaction was that the cambridge police acted stupidly. i think he used the word stupid or stupidly. this caused a big fuss. did he know enough about it to make that judgment, and so on. as the week went on, it became more and more of an issue. and partly -- largely because the president had entered the picture. and that -- >> host: yeah. >> guest: put a huge spotlight on it. by the end of the week, he came into the briefing room and talked to the media.
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maybe i was premature, maybe i didn't know all of the facts. but, you know, he had dealt with this kind of treatment by police as a young black man himself. so he was basing it on his own experience. then, of course, they had the beer summit. the media called from professor gates and officer crowley met at the white house over beers with the president and the vice president. and apparently they did have other meetings later just the two of them. i saw a comment that professor gates said they actually were friends now. so it's interesting. >> host: well, where ones gets one friends from. >> guest: yeah. >> host: you know, the president had proceeded president obama, of course, george w. bush. racially controversial for any numbers of reasons. one the moments that sticks with me was when the actor and artist kanye west said president bush doesn't care about black people. he seemed to be wounded. wasn't his reaction to hurricane
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katrina race insensitive? >> guest: looking back on it, he was in his vacation home in texas. they didn't leave immediately to preside over the recovery efforts. there was a famous picture sitting in the air force one looking out the window. 10,000 feet away from the problems. didn't really understand, it appears how desperate people were in new orleans. the scenes that the rest of the country were seeing of people needing food and water and being thousands and thousands of people piled into the stadium. president bush didn't seem to be aware of. at the minimum, i think the insensitive insensitivity was the problem. kanye west went farther and said the president doesn't care about black people. i did ask president bush about this as an e-mail exchange. he was wounded by this. it's still something that's just under the surface with him. he felt that, you know, his
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person -- in his personal life he had never been accused of being a racist or brought up in the segregated environments of texas around midland. but he did as he pointed out to me, the other side of it, again, talk about the oscillation, the public policy maybe public insensitivity and private actions. he did point out he did promote and name the two highest ranking african-americans in the american history in condoleezza rice and colin powell as national security and secretary of state and powell secretary of state in the first term. he's not given a lot of credit for that. that just shows he's working on the basis of merit rather than racial, you know, template to put other things. >> host: how do you think that secretary rice and powell influenced president bush on domestic issue?
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i mean their portfolio was, you know, foreign policy, of course, but domestic issues were never seen quite. >> guest: no, that's true. i interviewed secretary powell for the book. he said this he did discuss some domestic issues with the president -- he served ronald reagan, george bush the father, and george bush the son. he mentioned how in the case of l.a. riot, after that famous innocent with rodney king, he did try to explain to president bush, the father, why so many people were upset in the african-american community about a traffic stop and about this sort of thing. that is racial profiling. and but he felt that there was something that president bush didn't understand. he said he tried to keep out of domestic issues. if we had fast forward to condoleezza rice, she also tried to keep out of domestickers. she was, of course, very much an expert in foreign affairs and international relations. she was by her own comment and
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president bush's, the son, almost like a sister to president bush. she was very close to him. she would accompany him and his wife to camp david, to his home, residence in crawford, where them on social occasions. there was a real connection there. i think partly because she had worked for his dad, which he valued very much. and also during the campaign and since then, he became to think of her as not only an expert on foreign policy, but a very loyal person. and i think that's part of the whole history we've been talking about with african-americans in the white house. loyal to the president -- presidency and to him. it was really very -- very -- entrusted her with a lot of things. including access to them as private people in social context. which again president bush felt he didn't get really much credit for that either.
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>> host: why should he get credit for hanging out with his friends? if you are friends, you shouldn't get racial points for it. >> guest: exactly. i think part of is it the insensitivity that's lingered with him for the whole presidency and the kanye west comments. that stung him. he wasn't accustom. and he is really a sore point with him still. >> host: one the things you talk about both bush's in the book. president bush -- w. bush came to the white house and some of the same people who have served his dad were still their working as butlers, maids, cooks and other things like that. so big bush said -- h.w. said when his son came back, it was like having a reunion. >> guest: yes. >> host: little bush must have felt at some level, there was
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familiar territory. >> guest: that's interesting. sometimes people don't realize that they say. when president clinton came into office, he was not accustom to having servants or people on the household staff. he never had that -- some of that in arkansas as a governor, but nothing like a wealthy american would have. which president bush were. they didn't know how to deal with the household staff. hillary and bill clinton. they were wondering why are they here at night? are they spying on it? what's it all about? then they realized they had duties. >> host: they thought they were spying, things might have turned out differently; right? >> guest: yeah, looking back on it, you can see people not accustom to having staff at their elbow, do i have any time
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to myself? >> host: right. >> guest: as time went on, the staff game to like and respect. initially, it was different. one other quick point about this, president obama when he came into office, of course, wasn't accustom to having servants as a household staff either. a number of the household staff stayed on simply beyond retirement simply because they always wanted to work for an african-american. and never thought it would happen in their lifetimes. it's some moving stories that i tell in the book about how people stayed on and how a lot of the older household staff would saw the president's daughter and malia and sasha like their own grandchildren. there was a tremendous bond from the beginning, which president obama talked about too. >> host: you wrote about one particular woman who passed, it was a woman or a man? someone who, you know, made their transition. >> guest: yes. >> host: stayed on for a little while and became ill and
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malia and sasha sent a card and obama's attended the funeral. that was a moving story. >> guest: that didn't happen too long after the president took office. it was immediate bonding. the gentleman took an immediate liking to sasha and malia and would try to teach them french. almost like a grandparent. everything they did was wonderful and everything -- >> host: that was a really cool -- >> guest: yeah. wonderful. the daughters were upset when he passed away. it's just a case of how the household staff can become so attached. in this case, the notion of the african-american staff and the first african-american president is so much more intense. >> host: yeah. let's go back to george w. bush and the household staff. the certain of reyou knowon that george herbert walker bush talked about. any staff members george w. bush
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was close to? >> guest: i didn't find any particular staff members, no. but the staff that he knew when his dad was president, as you say, it was almost like sort of a reunion with the bush family when -- after the clinton period of bush the son came back. then the father would come back for visits. so that sort of enhanced the whole notion of sort of the bush family knows the household staff. the household staff liked the bushes in some ways because they were so predictable. that's very important to have consideration for the household staff. some presidents were late, some presidents were like lyndon johnson would say i'm going to have 50 people for dinner in two houses. take care of it. bush's were much more willing to give people notice and understand when some things couldn't be done. they were careful in trying to let the staff take time off during holidays.
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they didn't travel. they felt the secret service and household when christmas time came around, they could stay close to home. they tried not to -- the reagans and the bushes tried not to be aware for too long. because that would be a burden on the staff. it's an interesting inside story. but basically the story of consideration more than anything else. >> host: is there anything partisan to make away. the reagan's, bush's, as opposed to say the clintons. >> guest: i think it's more -- being accustom to dealing with household staff is one thing. the other is the idea of not making decisions based upon race. some of the people -- the african-american who have served until the white house were reluctant to be pigeon holed as african-american because they felt that they didn't want to just have that as their only portfolio. that was their case of one of president eisenhower's who felt that even though he was the only african-american on the white
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house staff, he didn't feel like he wanted to give advice to the president on racial issues and, of course, at that time, president eisenhower sent troops into the south to desegregate schools and enforce the supreme court orders. it was a self-limiting factor there. because the feels was that even though perhaps president eisenhower could have benefited from an inside advisor, the advisor felt like he didn't want to deal with only those issues. in the end, he was marginalized in everything. >> host: that particular staffer was a gentleman who had difficulty finding staff of his own. >> guest: yes. >> host: he came in as a professional policy advisor. none the white women wanted to work for him. >> guest: initially when he wanted to bring in the claire call staff, there was a pool of
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women that didn't want to work for the african-american. he had great difficulty finding a place to live in washington, which was segregated at the time. he felt he couldn't get, you know, transportation and taxis and so on. this is an advisor to the president of the united states. now other presidents, for instance, lincoln -- lyndon johnson, many they treatment happened to their staff, they could get angry. he would get angry even his own staff, african-american staff would say i can't work for this guy anymore. he's out of control. when he felt it was something that reflected on him, he had a cook from texas zephyr wright, johnson took that personally. he felt that, you know, so many
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other things with him. it was all about him. if this is the way people treat the cook to the vice president of the united states, that's just wrong. some people feel that kind of experience and the experience he saw with some of his other african-american staff deepened his commitment. that's just a small portion to the story. >> host: richard nixon, we haven't talked about him at all. interesting figure. you have the picture in the book. the picture of sammy davis junior giving him a hug which he got blasted. talk about nixon and his racial sensitivities and insensitivities. >> guest: right. look now at some of the tapes. he had terrible insensitivity. he made terrible racist remarks, previously.
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so he never quite escaped the last that he had of insensitivity on racial issues. one the big things on policy that historians remark on is the southern strategy. the idea that during his earlier career, he was not thought of as a particularly hostile person to racial progress. in the 1960 election, he got a substantial portion of the african-american vote as presidents had gotten going back to the lincoln experience. >> host: yes. >> guest: but when he got to running in '66, he developed a southern strategy, so he could carry the white south and northern states. he could never get past in a lot of his dealings with the african-american community. he was widely reviled in the african-american committee for this.
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some of his policies on segregation and so on were also widely criticized. personally, he didn't have any serious african-american advisors. the issue with sammy davis jr., he was reviled for endorsing nixon and supporting him. a lot of people thought with nixon, it was whatever way the political winds were blowing. that's the way to judge him, not conviction. maybe that's not fair. in some cases, particularly on parable issues, he felt he side with the go slow on civil rights segment in the country and in congress. and that's the way he conducted his presidency. >> guest: it's interesting and very ironic. president nixon was the author of the minority business. as you know, use the term economic justice. >> guest: right. >> host: in the executive order that set aside dollars for minority businesses to compete
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for. how do you -- >> guest: you make a good point. so many other things with nixon. there's all kinds of contradictions there. you know, he set up the easy environmental protection agency, and he's not thought of as particularly environmentally insensitive president. he -- overtures to china and hard liner in some ways op the -- on the war issues. vietnam where he had a mixed record. i think the president he had in the context of the book and the discussion on president at race and african-american, he couldn't be relied on to stay with a principal or conviction if the politics told him to do something else. that's the perception. that's a lot a lot of people think of nixon. his nickname was ricky dick. wasn't that he did everything wrong, he couldn't be relied on to do what was right in the crunch if politics dictated something else. that's how i look at it. >> host: much of your book
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deals with the inside of the white house. some of it does deal with the outside. beginning with johnson, african-american cabinet members. obama has -- clinton and obama are the high flier of 13 and 15% republickively. -- respectively. if you put your predictors hat, will that be the barf cabinet members african-american? >> guest: not necessarily. obama hasn't named a much higher number of african-americans percentage wise than clinton did. it's higher. but -- >> host: marginally. >> guest: right. yeah, not that much higher. one other interesting part of this, just to address your question, we really don't know if those numbers will change very much. certainly that's all depending on how the next campaign is conducted. but it's interesting that one thing that the obamas are sensitive is the idea of role model. >> host: yeah. >> guest: that's something we haven't touched on that i talk
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about in the book. the obama's do feel that they are role models. particularly for young african-americans. and o -- a lot of who michelle obama, the first lady. there's a pad earn that first ladies are very important on the issues. michelle obama has done a lot to expose the country to a wider group of african-americans. not just entertainers, sports figures, poets literary, look at the kinds of events happening in the white house. there are -- great numbers of african-american are in the white house. i think the obamas hope this is seen as very normal for americans. it's part of the race neutral. they are trying to bring in african-american to show this is something that should be considered routine in any white house. and michelle also has the anti-obesity initiative, which
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is particularly important in a lot of african-american communities and families and historic families. so i'd say that this role model idea is something that obama's take very seriously and according to my reporting, that's one reason obamaman ran in the first place. >> host: you know, we are winding down. you've talked about so many figures in this book. which one -- you mention one person. anyone else you wish you knew more about? someone i wish they'd written their biography. >> guest: william slade, whom we mentioned earlier, so close to lincoln. african-american valet who had the president's ear. what the nature of the relationship, why president lincoln valued his counsel so closely. and slade was so important to lincoln, he was the only only -e was actually brought in by mary todd lincoln to direct the president's body after he was
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killed. almost like an under taker today. it was an amazingingly close relationship. but it has not been fully clarify. i hope i take some steps. he's a very important figure in the history of the white house. i wish we knew more about him. >> host: you have done just a fabulous job with this book. it's fully intriguing. as i said, i was jealous when i looked at your biography. he got to read all of the phenomenal books. it's a great edition to the bod si of presidents and african-americans and it's something to take a look at during the african-american month. thank you for the phenomenal work. we are grateful to have it. >> guest: thank you so much. >> that was "afterwords" booktv signature program which they are interviewed by journalist, and
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others familiar with their material. "afterwords" airs every week on booktv. you can also watch "afterwords" online. go to booktv.org and click on afterwords on the upper right side of the page. on the go. "afterwords" is available via podcast. select which and listen to "afterwords" life you travel. >> what are you reading this summer? booktv wants to know.
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>> host: george, thank you so much for joining us today. i'm thrilled to have the chance to talk to you in some depth about your new book yours truly -- new book "the next decade." it narrows the ambitious on your last book. "the next 100 years." you've taken on the more manageable, the next ten years. or maybe slightly more unmanageable. we can talk about that. some of your views about what direction you see the world headed and in particular the u.s. encounters with that world. where it's on israel or china and your view of its rise or russia. i think you have some interesting things to say that are not exactly what you are going to pick up from reading the papers every day. so let's go ahead and jump right in to that conversation. the next ten years, what ares three most surprising takeaways
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that you are offering people in this book. >> guest: well, i think the first is the war on terror has been over down. not in the sense that terrorism is not a profound danger, but as a monocratic structure of foreign policy. it's unsustainable. there are too many other things happening in the world. the second, i suppose, is a theme that we've been arguing for a long time. that is china has profound economic problems. it's grown magnificently for 30 years. it will continue to go. it's going to go through an adjustment. i suppose the most important thing that i'm arguing is that the next ten years is about the relationship between what i call the empire and republic. between the vast global power of the united states, the difficulty in managing that, and retaining republican forms of government. eisenhower spoke about the polic